The Real Benefit Cheats Are The Employers Who Are Milking The System
Cameron wants to curb in-work benefits. No wonder: just £8bn on benefits goes to the unemployed, while an estimated £76bn, according to James Ferguson of Money Week, goes to people who are working. The government says this shouldn’t be happening. Cameron insists employers should be paying wages people can live on – which, funnily enough, is the sort of thing unions say, although they no longer have any power to make it happen.
It’s what Labour says, too, now the party is out of power. When it was in power, it avoided confrontation with employers offering poverty wages, and with the unions, by kindly offering to make up the difference between the minimum wage and a living wage via the benefits system.
It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. The Tories excoriate Labour because Labour accepted the Conservative idea that employers should be freed from the burden of social responsibility. Labour spent a lot of money on protecting employers from such irksome duties. The Conservatives still don’t want to impose such irksome duties, but don’t want to stump up for the hefty bill that ensues from failing to do so either.
Just one of the woeful consequences of Labour’s drive to support employers by supplementing employees is that it makes the figures look like the Department of Work and Pensions is showering taxpayers’ money on the feckless, when it is actually showering taxpayers’ money on businesses.
Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett has repeated calls for the Living Wage to become mandatory in response to the release of new Living Wage Foundation figures.
The Greens say the minimum wage should be lifted to a minimum of £10 per hour by 2020, £2 more than Labour’s pledge of £8 per hour. Current inadequate wage levels mean too many workers are on ‘grotesquely low wages’.
Natalie Bennett said:
“The latest update from the Living Wage Foundation could not have come at a more significant time. Workers are currently experiencing the most sustained and painful squeeze on their wages since the 1860s. The target set by the Foundation has once again highlighted the growing divide between the wages employees are taking home every month and the amount they need to live, pay the bills and provide for their families.
“That’s why it is so disappointing that the Coalition and Labour opposition have refused to make the commitments necessary to improve worker pay and bring it in line with inflation. Their plans offer nothing except a continuation of our current inadequate wage levels.
“The Green Party would not allow this situation to persist. We are calling for the minimum wage to be made a Living Wage today, and for a target to be set of a £10/hour minimum wage, outside of London, by 2020. We are serious about taking the steps necessary to reduce inequality, tackle low pay, and create an economy that supports everyone.”
Green Party research has revealed how nine in ten big businesses (employing 250+ people) in London are not signed up to the London Living Wage scheme, eight years after the policy was launched.
Baroness Jenny Jones said:
“It’s horrible to think that nine in ten big businesses are holding out and paying poverty wages, while many pay their top executives multi-million pound bonuses. The Living Wage campaigners have been brilliant at getting some employers to voluntarily sign up. But we can’t leave more than half a million Londoners on grotesquely low wages, so we need the London Living wage to become mandatory.”
The new Living Wage rates for 2015 were announced this week. The UK Living Wage Rate is £7.85 and the new London Living Wage rate is £9.15.
Rhys Moore, Director of Living Wage Foundation, said:
“As the recovery continues it’s vital that the proceeds of growth are properly shared. It’s not enough to simply hope for the best. It will take concerted action by employers, government and civil society to raise the wages of the 5 million workers who earn less than the Living Wage.
“The good news is that the number of accredited Living Wage employers has more than doubled this year – over 1,000 employers across the UK have signed up. In the last 12 months the number of Living Wage employers in the FSTE 100 has risen from four to 18 including Canary Wharf Group and Standard Life.
“Those businesses that can should follow the example of as well as hundreds of smaller, independent businesses like CTS Cleaning and Hodgson Sayers Roofing, who pay the Living Wage.
“Low pay costs the taxpayer money – firms that pay the minimum wage are seeing their workers’ pay topped up through the benefits system. So it’s right that we recognise and celebrate those employers who are voluntarily signing up to the higher Living Wage, and saving the taxpayer money in the process.
“The Living Wage is an independent calculation that reflects the real cost of living, rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 06 Nov 2014
Disastrous economic policies are dividing Britain and destroying hopes of recovery, the leader of the country’s biggest union stated today (Monday 8 September 2014).
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, called for collective bargaining to be reintroduced to arrest the decades long fall in the value of wages, and give workers a fairer share of the wealth they create.
Speaking in the debate on the new economy at the Trades Union Congress in Liverpool, McCluskey said:
“It was a Tory – Benjamin Disraeli – who said that Britain was two nations. He would certainly feel right at home today.
“Workers in our country are today facing the longest drop in their living standards since the 1870s when Disraeli was prime minister. But to be fair to him – he saw the class divisions in Britain as a problem to be solved. His Conservative successor in Number 10 seems to rejoice in them.
“Because every measure David Cameron and George Osborne take is designed to increase the squeeze on workers’ living standards and widen the already scandalous inequality gap.
“David Cameron used to talk of the Big Society. The truth is he’s created Two Societies – a society of Bullingdon Bullies, country suppers with Rebekah Brooks, tax cuts for the rich, a society which is a happy home for the hedge fund managers who fund the Tory party.
“That’s not so much the Big Society, more like the Greedy Pig Society.
“On the other hand there’s a society of people in fear – fear of losing their jobs or their homes, fear of paying the heating bills, fear over the future of the National Health Service, where the government strips away any protection the poorest can still cling to.
“The Tories will tell you that it’s all going to come right – that after six lost years for the economy we will all feel the benefits soon. But the truth is that trickle down has dried up.
“For the first time in anyone’s memory we have an economy which is apparently growing – while living standards for ordinary people are still falling.
“To misquote another famous Tory: ‘Never, in the field of human economics, has so much been produced by so many to the benefit of so few’.
“We need a social rebalancing and only trade unions can deliver that – because all the power is on one side of the negotiating table.
“Most economists now recognise that this is the biggest structural obstacle to sustainable growth in a modern economy.
“Collective bargaining can ensure that workers get back more of the wealth they produce. Trade unions stand for the productive economy and the people who are the real wealth-creators. In Downing Street they represent only the parasites.”
Source: Unite Union Media Release via Welfare News Service, 08 Sept 2014
The number of women in the UK who don’t have a job has soared to record levels under the Tory-led coalition government, a new report reveals.
According to figures from the Fawcett Society, a leading charity who campaign on advancing equality rights for women, nearly one million (946,000) remain unemployed while others struggle to get by on poverty wages.
The charity is calling on the government to back its campaign for all workers to be paid the living wage, which currently stands at £8.80 per hour in London and £7.65 per hour across the rest of the UK.
The minimum wage for those aged 21 and over is set to increase by 19p per hour to £6.50 from October 2014. The rate for 18-20 year-olds will increase to £5.13 an hour and £3.79 for 16 and 17 year-olds. Apprentices will get a meagre 5p extra, taking their earnings up to just £2.73 for every hour worked.
The definition of ‘low pay’ (two-thirds of the median full-time average salary) set by the OECD currently stands at anything below £7.71 an hour.
Deputy Director of the Fawcett Society, Dr. Eva Neitzert, said:
“From cleaners, dinnerladies and care assistants to supermarket workers and admin assistants, women undertake crucial work that helps to hold the fabric of society together.
“But rather than benefitting from the economic growth we are seeing, the situation for these women is declining. We urgently need to tackle the low wages paid to women by increasing the value of the national minimum wage.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady added:
“The alarming shift in the UK’s job market towards low pay and casual contracts is hitting women hardest and risks turning the clock back on decades of progress towards equal pay.
“Unless more is done to tackle poverty wages and job insecurity, women will be excluded from the economic recovery.”
Gloria De Piero, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said:
“It’s clear that this isn’t a recovery for working women. Under David Cameron and Nick Clegg, more women are struggling on low pay, in insecure jobs and not getting the hours they and their families need.
“Only a Labour Government is committed to tackling the scandal of low pay by significantly increasing the minimum wage, providing incentives for employers to pay the living wage and delivering on the promise of equal pay for women and their families across the country.”
Women’s Minister Nicky Morgan said the pay gap is too high, but argued: “It is narrowing – and for full-time workers under 40 is almost zero.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 17 Aug 2014
> A masterful summing-up of the UK today…
Scaremongering and celebrity obsession ensures the true picture of life in the UK remains forever obscured, writes Joyce McMillan
It’s never a good idea to fly into a rage in a public place; but there it was, a provocation so absurd and extreme that fury seemed the only sensible response. It was a magazine cover, lovingly displayed in a shop in central Edinburgh a few weeks ago; on it was a picture of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, with a caption that read, “Not only the woman of the year, but the woman of the century.”
No-one seemed to find this odd, even though the century has barely begun; no-one was objecting, at least in public, to the idea that the perfect role-model for a generation of young women, struggling to earn more than £7.50 an hour, is a woman whose career suggests that the world is your oyster, so long as you can arrange to be born rich, to marry into the royal family, and to devote all your energy to standing around looking silently pretty in weirdly old-fashioned clothes.
And although the bizarre values of the celebrity magazine that published this cover might seem a far cry from the current debate about the UK economy, and the strange “recovery” it is now experiencing, it seems to me increasingly clear that the nation’s tolerance for the economic policies to which it has been subjected since 2008 is somehow bound up with the hallucinatory extremes of celebrity culture that now pervade our national life, inviting people to empathise not with themselves and those around them, but with the rich and famous.
This week in the House of Commons, the Tory benches could be heard roaring with joy at the news that British economic growth has returned to the heady level of 2.4 per cent a year, and that unemployment has dropped to just over 7 per cent. And when Ed Miliband tried to point out that this “recovery” is not much use to an average British earner whose real income is still £1,600 a year lower than it was in 2008, he was literally shouted down, by Tory MPs hysterical with triumph at the news that their beloved financial sector is once again growing by leaps and bounds, promising ever more lavish times for their friends in the City.
Ed Miliband is in the right of the argument, of course, so far as the current round of statistics are concerned. As a TUC report released on Monday made clear, the current increase in economic activity in Britain is mainly confined to London, with unemployment still actually increasing in the north-east and south-west of England. 80 per cent of the new jobs created since 2010 are in sectors where the average worker earns less than the living wage of around £7.95 an hour. Many of those “in work” are on poverty wages, and are being forced to work part-time or on zero hours contracts.
And astonishingly, the government actually includes in its “in work” figure the large number of people – more than a million, since 2010 – who have been forced to work for nothing, either in unpaid internships, or as part of the government’s own workfare scheme.
The truth about Britain, in 2014, is that ours has become a low-wage, low-output, low-productivity economy, with chronic under-employment and little job security, and with economic growth driven only by increasing household debt; indeed it would be interesting to know what proportion of the current upturn is directly related to the recent development of yet another London property bubble, supported by the government’s generous help-to-buy subsidies to those already on the property ladder.
If this is the real story of what’s happening in the British economy, though – a steady corrosion of ordinary workers’ earnings and benefits as a share of the national wealth, all designed to pay for a deficit almost entirely caused by the banking crash of 2008 and the subsequent bailout – it is not a story that most people have ever heard. The controlling narrative, as we all know, is the one about how the financial crash was caused by excessive public spending and an over-generous benefits system; the one about how we were all “living beyond our means” and have to pay the price; the one about how blaming rich bankers for the crash they caused, or expecting them to change their behaviour, is pointless and immature; the one about how migrants and benefit scroungers are the problem, and attacking them will provide a solution.
And it’s not difficult to grasp how this desperately skewed account of reality – actually false at every point – meshes with a television schedule that ranges neatly from Benefits Street to Strictly Come Dancing, offering viewers first a precisely-chosen group of underclass hate-figures, then a sustained orgy of identification with a series of celebrities; it’s a perfect, instinctive symphony of elite ideology, designed to divide ordinary people against themselves, and so to continue to rule.
All of which is elementary stuff, of course, for any boss class facing troubled times; distract the people by hatemongering and scaremongering, provide enough glitzy distractions and royal events, convince them that economic problems are just symptoms of personal moral failure – and hey presto, you can fool most of the people, almost all of the time.
And this time, too the tiny elite who are now trousering an ever-greater share of the world’s wealth have a peculiarly strong advantage, in that there is almost no organised resistance; just the odd protest, a brief and disparate occupy moment, and a steady thrum of dissent from the beleaguered trade union movement, which is about to become the main victim of the fiercely authoritarian Lobbying Bill currently passing through Westminster.
The idea that there is no alternative to George Osborne’s tired 1980’s neoliberalism may be intellectual and historical nonsense, in other words, disproved by the very breath of history, here in Britain and elsewhere.
Yet unless those of us who oppose his world-view begin to unite, to organise, to start arguing out a more truthful and compelling narrative in every workplace and community on the planet, our chances of challenging this new age of extreme inequality will be slim indeed; as slim as Kate Middleton’s tiny waist, and – in the eyes of a bamboozled generation – not nearly so glamorous, so interesting, or so important.
Source – The Scotsman, 23 Jan 2014